Echoes of the Big Bang

Holmdell Horn AntennaUsing a 20-foot, horn-shaped receiver built at Bell Laboratories’ Holmdell, New Jersey facility for tests of the Echo-1 satellite in 1960, radio astronomers Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson stumble across the first sign of the Cosmic Microwave Background: a microwave signal indicating a 2.7 Kelvin background radiation emanating from every point in the universe, which Wilson and Penzias believe may be leftover radiation from the birth of the universe (confirming the “Big Bang theory” that had come about when astronomer Edwin Hubble discovered in the 1920s that the Doppler effect indicated that galaxies were moving away from each other). Though this monumental discovery will net the two a Nobel Prize for physics in 1978, Penzias and Wilson initially believe that the radiation is man-made or perhaps the result of pigeon droppings in the antenna interfering with their instruments!